Three huge Grade/Group 1s will be taking place around the globe this weekend, with Ascot’s Champions Weekend having much of the high-quality action. However, an interesting jumps race at Far Hills and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland ensures there is something for all horse racing fans this weekend.
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (Grade 1)
We start at Keeneland, where there is a very interesting Grade 1 for fillies that are three. Horses involved will run over a distance of 1 1/8 miles in this contest. Chad Brown has a very impressive victory in this race, having won three times during his career.
He has an outstanding chance of improving that record with Shantisara in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Flavien Prat takes the ride on this three-year-old, who has won two from five this season. She has also finishes second on two occasions. She claimed Grade 3 success in the Pucker Up Stakes, and also claimed Jockey Club Oaks success with a very impressive 101 speed figure.
Cloudy Dawn would be our outside pick in this race for William Haggas. She has won three from five, and could be one that looks set to improve over the longer distance, having won over a mile in the G3 Prix de Lieury in France last time out.
Grand National Hurdle Stakes (Grade 1)
The Aintree Grand National is the inspiration for this race, which will be run for the 100th time this weekend. Fourteen hurdles will be jumped over the 2 5/8 miles distance and horses aged four and older can enter this contest.
The Mean Queen comes into this with the best form, having won the G1 Lonesome Glory Handicap and G1 Jonathan Shepherd Handicap. She beat Snap Decision in the first of those wins. However, the fact that she unseated her rider in the Jonathan Kiser earlier in the season means that you could take her own.
Certain trends from the last couple of runnings of this race have been evident, as Irish-bred and trained horses have performed well, winning the last two. Meanwhile, seven of the last ten winners have been aged eight or over. Gordon Elliott-trained Chosen Mate ticks both those boxes. This will be his first start of the season. Last year, he finished tenth at the Cheltenham Festival in the G3 Grand Annual.
Pick: Chosen Mate
Champion Stakes (Group 1)
At Ascot it is Champions Day on Saturday, and the featured race of the afternoon is the Champion Stakes. This is the richest race of the season in the United Kingdom, with a purse of £1.26 million. One mile and two furlongs is covered in this race, and there is no shortage of star power.
Epsom Derby and King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Adayar is involved, but we aren’t fans of his chances after a quick turnaround following the demanding Arc in France. Mishriff is the pick of the favorites, as he was excellent when winning the International Stakes on his last start. His target for the season has been this race, and he will be much closer to Adayar in this compared to the King George, as he no longer needs to give as much weight away.
However, we are willing to take a chance on another entrant. Dubai Honour was supplemented for this race, but he has been improving with every start. He has won his last three, which includes back-to-back Group 2s in France. The William Haggas runner looks primed for a strong showing in Group 1 company, as the trainer looks to win this for a second year running.
Pick: Dubai Honour